The Snapshot wrote: pcm wrote:
The Snapshot wrote:OK, since we want to start waving the Flower power flag in an I told you so vibe, I'll bite.
The facts are that the recent playoff failures were most especially resultant from Fleury's propensity to give up soft goal after soft goal in playoff games - and any soft goal in a playoff game is difficult to recover from. These goals, regardless of the defensive structure or lack thereof in front of him, were by all accounts stoppable shots. If a shot comes from a certain place on the ice, only a bad goal can result if it goes in. Many of these goals would not even be characterized as legitimate scoring chances. Alas, these goals were not the type of goals the Pens were getting against the opposing goaltender in most of these series.
Why is it so important to simply ignore this simple fact in support of Fleury? Why not just say we hope he is mentally stronger and able to do what he did last night in the playoffs? He clearly has a TON to prove.
It is noteworthy that many of the games we lost in the recent playoff failures were VERY similar to last nights, where the opposing goalie stood on his head and we had a goalie not only NOT make that big glove save, but also allowing one or two more to leak in. Montreal and Tampa were eliminations where we consistently carried the play. The Islanders series was headed down that same toilet except that Bylsma finally decided he had seen that movie before. Losing to Boston, while a sweep was tough to accept, was at least to an arguably superior team who's goalie played lights out.
That is pretty much irrefutable if you watch the tapes back - yet we are supposed to just pretend he's always been good in the playoffs when in reality he has NEVER been consistent night in night out even in the two Cup runs? I still can see from my seats at that end the puck standing on end behind him on a bad angle shot in Game 6 of the '08 Finals at the Igloo. He put that one in with his a** after letting a harmless shot roll up his arm and down his back. That goal was largely the swing point in Game 6 that allowed the Wings to carry the Cup around the Igloo. To get there though in that season in earlier rounds, he showed an ability to bounce back right away from bad outings. He had gained a reputation for immediately playing some of his best games the next try. THAT is all we need perhaps, but instead we see a guy completely fall apart, and people want to find any reason other than that he was a house of cards mentally?
I want SOMEONE to give us solid goaltending night after night in the Playoffs. I think this team, with a few key additions here and there, can win with that. I don't care who it comes from. Vokoun, Zatkoff, Fleury, Hartzell, Jarry......whoever.
To test a hypothesis, you have to have a control. The Boston series was that control. Remove Fleury from the equation = same results. Our team leaders hit the whine button midway through game 1 and the team went on full tilt. They got solid goaltending... and still were decimated. While Boston may have been the better team, they were not THAT much better.
IMO Fleury's leaky goals are a symptom of the problem. Not the problem itself, which falls more under the categories of team leadership and accountability. No doubt, Fleury is a team leader and needs to be accountable for his subpar play, which has only exacerbateed the underlying problem. But blaming him for those loses is like blaming your hangover for making you feel like crap.
Fortunately, I see progress this year. The team has shown some gutsy wins. Fleury is back on the wagon. J. Martin has brought in some new ideas. There are young guys making an impact. But this team lives and dies by how 87 & 71 lead the way. 29, 58, 14, 18 all tend to follow suit.
The control being the Boston series makes no sense. Fleury wasn't in it. The other goalie stood on his head and we didn't score, period. In every other series, Fleury was the goalie and we DID score, and EVERY time we did - he'd give up a leaky goal? Montreal, Tampa, Philly and the Islanders series are MY control. To use one series he wasn't even in (except for being beaten on the FIRST shot after being put in) as a way to exonerate him is just.....
As for leaky goals being a symptom, that is just silly. The leaky goals ARE the disease, and I hope Fleury has found the cure. It is as simple as stopping the stoppable shots every night. He hasn't done that in four straight playoffs despite a different team in front of him every season. Every single analyst in the league knows that Fleury is the single biggest weak link in the Pens playoff failures. Only in Pittsburgh do a few folks want to turn a blind eye and blame EVERYTHING but him. The D failed, the supporting cast failed, the superstars failed....
Why is this even debatable? Just play the same way in the playoffs as he does in the regular season. It's. Just. That. Simple. If he does that and the team loses, we can blame the team.
I hope he plays well. I believe that if he does we have a tremendous chance to go deep again. I don't say that not winning the Cup means failure either. He could play well, the team could acquit itself well and we could still come up short because there are other good teams - but our starting goaltending has been abysmal for 4 straight playoffs, and the team showed MARKED improvement in all zones in front of Vokoun immediately last season.
Fleury played plenty well enough in the Tampa series for the Pens to win it - in the end, the offense just wasn't there. For reference:
Game 1 (W 3-0) - 1.000 SV%
Game 2 (L 5-1) - .800 SV%
Game 3 (W 3-2) - .926 SV%
Game 4 (W 3-2) - .935 SV%
Game 5 (L 8-2) - .714 SV%
Game 6 (L 4-2) - .810 SV%
Game 7 (L 1-0) - .957 SV%
Similar to the Montreal series in 2010, Fleury had another "hot and cold" series but actually came out on the better side of it this time. His numbers for the series weren't great, but he certainly gave the Pens every chance to win 4 games.
You'll get absolutely no argument on my part that he needs to be better in the playoffs. He was poor in 2010, decent (ish) in 2011, historically bad in 2012, and got benched in 2013 - I think that speaks for itself. Similarly, though, the Pens really
need Crosby & Malkin to not pull another disappearing act like they did against Montreal in 2010 (combined 6 points in 7 games)
and against Boston in 2013 (combined 0 points in 4 games)